Saturday, March 22, 2014

One Arsène Wenger, 1,000 Games -- Part III


On May 21, 2005, Arsenal defeated Manchester United on penalty kicks to win the FA Cup Final at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff, Wales.

At that point, Arsène had won 7 major trophies in his first 9 years as manager of Arsenal: 3 Premier League titles and 4 FA Cups.

That was nearly 9 years ago. Roughly the halfway point of his first 1,000 games in charge of the club.

Since then... no trophies.

Meanwhile, the League has been won by Man United 5 times, Chelsea 3, and Manchester City one. The FA Cup has been won by Chelsea 4 times, and once each by Liverpool, Man City, and 2 clubs no longer in the top flight: Portsmouth and Wigan Athletic. The League Cup -- if you still consider that a "major trophy" -- has been won by Man United 3 times, and once each by Chelsea (beating Arsenal in the 2007 Final), Liverpool, Man City, Swansea City, Birmingham City (who beat Arsenal in the 2011 Final, and then got relegated), and, of course, by Arsenal's North London arch-rivals, Tottenham Hotspur (a.k.a. Spurs) in 2008, after they beat Arsenal in the Semifinal (reversing the previous year's Semi result). And Man United and Chelsea have each won the UEFA Champions League since then, while Chelsea have added a Europa League title -- Wenger has never won a European trophy.

As the seasons have gone by, and the number in "Arsenal haven't won a trophy in (X) years" has grown larger and larger, Wenger's reputation has gone from that of an eccentric genius to that of a "nearly man" -- or, as Chelsea manager Jose Mourinho put it recently, a "specialist in failure."

Is that the case? And, if so, is it his fault?

*

In 2006, the last season of Highbury before the Emirates Stadium opened, Arsenal finished 4th, their worst season in 10 years. But a last-day win still secured 4th place, and thus the last English place in the 2006-07 Champions League. And they denied Spurs that place as well, as Spurs finished 5th.

Which wouldn't have been such a big deal, except for the rivalry, if Arsenal had won the 2006 Champions League Final. And they did reach the Final, along the way becoming the first English team ever to beat Real Madrid away.

But the Final, against FC Barcelona at the Stade de France outside Paris, quickly turned from dream into nightmare. In the 18th minute, Samuel Eto'o charged the Arsenal goal, and keeper Jens Lehmann stopped him, but knocked him down, and was shown a straight red card, making him the first player ever sent off in a European Cup or Champions League Final. (I must admit, it was worthy of at least a yellow card, and the awarding of a penalty -- but not a straight red. It wasn't malicious.) And yet, no penalty was awarded. What kind of ruling was that?

Wenger then put backup goalie Manuel Almunia into the net, and he was hardly ready for this kind of pressure. Of course, with the red card, Wenger had to take off an attacking player -- and in a game where, with Almunia in net, goals might be at a premium, he took off one of his best attackers, Robert Pires. It made no sense. Incredibly, in the 37th minute, while down to 10 men, it was an Arsenal defender who scored the game's first goal: Sol Campbell. But Barca scored twice in a late 5-minute span to win it.

It was the last game in Arsenal's colours for Pires, and also for Dennis Bergkamp. It seemed like the last for Campbell as well, although he did briefly return in the 2010 season. Notoriously, it was the last for Arsenal for Ashley Cole. Once the shining light of Wenger's belief in promoting young players, he had wanted £60,000 a week. Arsenal offered him £55,000. Chelsea began meetings with him, and were fined for "tapping up." "Cashley," as he became known to Arsenal fans, demanded to be sold to Chelsea, and was.

Wenger had already sold Captain and midfielder Patrick Vieira in the previous off-season. He had decided that his system wouldn't work with both Vieira, then 29 years old, and 18-year-old Spanish wonder boy Francesc "Cesc" Fabregas. So he got rid of perhaps the best all-around player Arsenal have ever had, a man who still had 6 years of top-flight starts left in him, for a kid who had, at the time, thrilled but produced very little.

It was the biggest mistake Wenger ever made. Although Cesc's moves and good looks made Arsenal fans sing his praises -- figuratively and literally -- the youth movement didn't work out. Players such as Abou Diaby, Philippe Senderos, Carlos Vela, Denilson Pereira Neves, Alex Song, Johan Djourou and Emmanuel Eboue never really put it all together. And those were just the ones who made it as far as being occasional starters.

In 2006-07, the first season at the Emirates, Arsenal again finished 4th, and lost the League Cup Final to Chelsea -- though this did include the quite accidental knockout of Chelsea's loathsome Captain John Terry when Diaby, going for the ball, kicked him in the jaw. In 2007-08, Arsenal were fighting for the League title in late February, when Brazilian-Croatian forward Eduardo da Silva, brought in to replace the great Thierry Henry who'd gone to Barcelona, got his leg broken by Birmingham City's Martin Taylor.

In 2009, bolstered by the signing of Andrey Arshavin, a man I then described as "the Little Russian Beast," Arsenal stayed in the League race until April, and advanced to the Semifinals of both the FA Cup and the Champions League (though Arshavin, having played in the CL that season for his former club, Zenit St. Petersburg was ineligible to play in it for Arsenal -- "cup-tied"). But Wenger did not start Arshavin in the FA Cup Semi against Chelsea, the club's first game at the new Wembley Stadium in London, and lost 2-1. Then Man United knocked them out of the CL before being beaten by Barcelona, led by Henry and their exciting young Argentine Lionel Messi.

In 2010, Wenger's policy of playing younger players instead of starters in the League Cup was extended to the FA Cup. With a lineup consisting of the returned Sol and, essentially, 10 students at "Arsène Wenger High School," Arsenal lost away to Stoke City in the 4th Round. This was a trophy that could have been won, as Portsmouth, their finances in meltdown and already relegated, upset Tottenham in the Semifinal and only lost the Final 1-0 to Chelsea -- perhaps the greatest disparity in economic power in the history of European football. In 2011, Arsenal were in all 4 competitions (Premier League, FA Cup, League Cup, Champions League) as late as the end of February, but injuries and (again) a team of kids led to defeat to Birmingham City in the League Cup Final, defeat to Barcelona (by this time, without Henry) in the CL Round of 16, defeat to Man United in the FA Cup Quarterfinal, and a 3rd place finish in the League.

In the lead-up to the 2011-12 season, Fabregas and Samir Nasri, young players Wenger had nurtured, demanded out. Fabregas was sold to his boyhood club, Barcelona, which had launched the greatest tapping-up campaign in soccer history, all so they could have the most exciting young midfielder in the world, and yet was never punished for it by FIFA or UEFA. Thus endeth the experiment of building the next great Arsenal team around Fabregas, as great a fool's errand as has ever been seen in football.

Nasri did not want to go back to hometown club Olympique de Marseille. He just wanted more money. So Wenger sold him to the same club that had taken an earlier ungrateful wretch, Togo striker Emmanuel Adebayor: Manchester City, now owned by a member of the royal family of, ironically, the United Arab Emirates, whose Emirates Airways was now Arsenal's shirt sponsor and the owner of the naming rights on their new stadium.

An 8-2 defeat away to Manchester United, the club's worst loss in a century, led to some big deadline-day deals by Wenger, and the club went from 17th place out of 20 to finishing 3rd, but again crashed out of all 3 cups. Robin van Persie, whom Wenger had stood by during injury after injury, and even during an arrest for rape (the evidence was flimsy and the charges were dropped), wrote an open letter to Arsenal fans, questioning the ambition of the club. Rather than sell RVP to a foreign club, he sold him to Man United.

This did not stop Arsenal from beating Tottenham out to 3rd place and, since 6th-place Chelsea ended up winning the Champions League (the defending champion always gets a spot), the last available English spot in the next Champions League -- after Tottenham, at one point, had a 10-point lead on Arsenal. Nor did it hand the title to United. It did, however, make winning the title a lot easier for Sir Alex Ferguson's Red Devils.

Yet again, 2012-13 would prove to be a frustrating season. On March 3, Arsenal lost 2-1 away to Tottenham, putting Tottenham's lead over Arsenal for the 4th and final CL spot at 7 points. Piers Morgan, the English "journalist" who took Larry King's timeslot on CNN, and an Arsenal fan who nonetheless hates Wenger, had had enough of the complaints that Wenger's hands were tied as far as bringing in new players for big money, because the deal for the new stadium was still being paid off. He thought that loss to Tottenham, which seemed to ensure no Champions League football for Arsenal in 2013-14, was the last straw.

Here is what Morgan, hired as a studio guest for the day for U.S. coverage on Fox Soccer Channel, said when that game ended: "If Arsène Wenger has one ounce of honour left in him, he will resign immediately."

Never before had "the Wenger Out Brigade" had a better case.

Wenger did not resign. Arsenal did not lose another game for the rest of the season, and, again, on the final day, as in 2006 and 2012, beat Tottenham out for the last CL spot. Clearly, Wenger was right to not resign.

In the summer transfer window, Wenger picked up French-African teenager Yaya Sanogo and former Arsenal midfielder Mathieu Flamini on free transfers -- again, spending nothing going into the September 1 North London Derby at home to Tottenham. And the old enemy had spent £100 million (some sources have it as high as £110 million) on new players after selling Welsh winger Gareth Bale, their main scoring threat from the last 2 seasons. The old line about "a power shift in North London" was, like the WOB's whining, louder than ever.

Final score: One-nil to The Arsenal. The next day, the deadline, Wenger bought German-Turkish midfield wizard Mesut Ozil for £42.5 million -- from Real Madrid, who needed the money, because they'd just spent a record £85 million (double Ozil's sale price) on Bale. In other words, Tottenham's record profit made Arsenal's record signing possible. And the Wenger Outers rejoiced that the manager had finally listened to their demand to "Spend some fucking money!"

They still want "a world-class striker," though, to replace van Persie, ignoring the fact that the previous year's striker buy, Olivier Giroud, is outscoring the supposedly "world-class" Wayne Rooney of United. (The facts that Rooney is English, and Giroud is not only not English, but French, suggests that bigotry may be involved in the WOBs' whining.) In the January 2014 transfer window, despite injuries to Giroud (who has returned), Nicklas Bendtner (who also has) and Theo Walcott (who hasn't, and will miss the rest of the season and the World Cup, too), Wenger did not buy a striker, world-class or otherwise. Fortunately, the return of Giroud and the interesting first appearances of Sanogo have helped a lot.

As things stand today, March 22, 2014, the day of Wenger's 1,000th game as manager of Arsenal...

* Arsenal are out of the Champions League, going out in the Round of 16 for the 4th straight season, to Bayern Munich for the 2nd straight season, despite drawing in Munich after winning there last year, but being doomed by home losses to the German behemoths.

* Arsenal did not win the League Cup, whose Final is usually the last Sunday in February. Manchester City won it this season.

* However, Arsenal find themselves in a rare 4-way dogfight for the Premier League title. Even rarer, Manchester United are not one of the teams in the fight for the title. The retirement of Ferguson has led to the hiring of Everton manager David Moyes, and between his tactical foolishness and the advancing age of some once-great United players, United may not even qualify for Europe next season. Currently, Chelsea, today's opponents, lead the League. However, Arsenal and Liverpool are both 4 points back, and each have a game in hand -- meaning that, if each wins said game, they'll each be 1 point back. Manchester City are 6 back, but have 3 games in hand: Win all 3, and they'll be 3 points up even if Chelsea don't drop points. Counting this weekend's games, Chelsea have 8 League games left, Arsenal and Liverpool 9 each, Man City 11, until the finale on May 11, and anybody who says they know what's going to happen is fooling no one but themselves.

* And Arsenal have advanced to the Semifinal of the FA Cup. They will play defending champions but 2nd-division Wigan Athletic, who for the 2nd year in a row (doing it in the Final last year and the Quarterfinal this year) stunned Man City. Arsenal got there by beating Tottenham, 3rd-division Coventry City, and both Merseyside teams, Liverpool and Everton. The winner will face the winner of the other Semifinal, between Premiership side Hull City and 3rd-division Sheffield United -- meaning that this is easily a better chance for Arsenal to win a trophy than the League.

Arsenal have 2 chances to win silverware this season. And yet, as the drought has reached "Arsenal haven't won a trophy in 9 seasons," the WOB are saying that he has to leave if he doesn't win either.

*

His supporters like to say, "Arsène Knows." They have 3 League titles and 4 FA Cups to prove it. His detractors -- and this is just among people who claim to support the club -- say that was years ago, and that he refuses to adjust to the realities of today's game, which means "Spend some fucking money!"

Wenger himself has said, "We live a society where everybody knows everything and it looks like it is a shame to say I don’t know."

There are criticisms of Wenger from elsewhere. He whines about injuries, which isn't allowed because all teams have injuries. (Not like Arsenal has had, especially since 2006.) He whines about bad calls from the officials, which isn't allowed because all teams get bad calls, and "they even out in the end." (Then why did they never even out for Ferguson? Why do they never even out for Chelsea, through all the managers they've hired and fired?) He too easily says that a player coming back from a long-term injury is "like a new signing." He's too set in his ways, stuck to an outmoded ideal that football can be played beautifully but on the cheap, and as long as Chelsea and the Manchester clubs can afford to outspend him, he'll never win another trophy in England; and as long as they, and the Spanish giants, and Bayern, and Paris Saint-Germain (who haven't yet won the Champions League but now have the money to spend to make a serious run at it) can afford to outspend him, he'll never win the Champions League.

Then there are those who mock him for personal reasons. They make fun of the oversized parka that he wears in cold weather. They make fun of him slamming his water bottle into the ground when things don't go well. They make fun of his reaction to fouls committed by his own team, usually taking the form of, "No, I did not see it." They make fun of his descriptions of his team having "the quality" and "the mental strength" when, clearly, they don't have enough of either. And, because of his tendency to bring in teenagers, some people even call him, with no serious evidence, a "paedophile."

Well, in the tradition of a great show that ran on ESPN a few years ago, I am showing you...

The Top 5 Reasons You Can't Blame Arsène Wenger for Arsenal Not Winning a Trophy Since 2005

As that show did, I'll being with some reasons that didn't make the cut: The Best of the Rest.

Bad Calls. Since it's bad form to whine about bad officiating, even when the officiating actually is bad, I won't put this in the top 5. But...

* The Wayne Rooney dive at Old Trafford in 2004, ending the 49-game unbeaten streak. True, Arsenal did end up winning a trophy that season, but it was so obvious. Rooney should have been sent off immediately. Whether Arsenal would have scored against a 10-man United doesn't matter: If not, it would have been a draw, and the streak would have reached 54 before their next legitimate loss, away to Liverpool 5 weeks later.

* The red card to Jens Lehmann in the 2006 Champions League Final. It wasn't malicious, so it should have been a yellow. Actually, if referee really Terje Hauge wanted to hurt Arsenal, he should have awarded a penalty to Barca -- which would have been the correct call anyway!

* An early-season match with United at Old Trafford in August 2009 was ruined by an own-goal header by Abou Diaby, but also by a bogus penalty called on goalie Manuel Almunia.

* Pretty much every game that United and Chelsea have played against Arsenal since at least 2003 has been full of dives. Notable offenders include United's Rooney, Ruud van Nistelrooy, Nani and Ashley Young; and Chelsea's Arjen Robben, Didier Drogba and Ramires.

* Three times in the CL Round of 16 match away to Barcelona in 2011, a Barca player grabbed an Arsenal player by the throat. All 3 times, referee Massimo Busacca did nothing. No straight red. No yellow. Not even a warning. And then Busacca sent off Robin van Persie -- victim of two of the chokings -- for kicking the ball about a quarter of a second after the whistle. So Arsenal had to play 10 vs. 11 (really, 10 vs. 12) for most of the 2nd half against the best team in the world at the time, when it should have been 11 Gunners vs. 8 Catalans. Grab a man by the throat on the streets of Barcelona, and you could be arrested for assault; do it in a Barca shirt inside the Camp Nou, and you're a national hero.

* And just in Arsenal's last knockout of the CL, Robben, now with Bayern, was diving all over the place, and never cautioned. He wasn't the only Bayern player diving, either. It should be noted that Barca's manager in 2011, Pep Guardiola, is now Bayern's manager. Bayern were not previously known as a team that tolerated diving.

So, yes, there have been bad calls against Arsenal at key moments. Who knows what Arsenal could have won had the officials gotten those calls right.

Tapping Up. Chelsea with Ashley Cole in 2005-06, and Barcelona with Cesc Fabregas from 2009 to 2011, are two of the most notorious examples in football history. And Arsenal caved in both times. Personally, if I was in charge of transfers at Arsenal in 2011, I would have sold Fabregas to Real Madrid for one pound. For four reasons: To punish Barca by selling the player they wanted the most to their arch-rivals; to punish Fabregas (or, as I began calling him for poisoning the atmosphere at Arsenal, "Mustardgas") for his disloyalty; to show the other players what happens when you are disloyal to Arsenal; and to show the fans that there are things more important than money.

Previous Trophy Droughts. As late as April 1970, people were mocking the Gunners by saying, "Arsenal haven't won a trophy since the Coronation!" It was true: Their last trophy was the 1953 League title, won a month before Queen Elizabeth II was crowned. That was 17 years, before they won the Fairs Cup. From the 1971 Double to the 1979 FA Cup 8 years. From the 1979 FA Cup to the 1987 League Cup, 8 years -- in other words, 1 trophy in 17 years. How does Wenger's 9 years look now?

What's that, you say? If Wenger is such a genius, such a thing shouldn't happen? You're right -- but there are reasons why, that I'll get to in a moment.

Previous Arsenal Managers. Take a look:

* Bertie Mee won just 3 trophies in 10 years -- none in his last 5. And there were near-misses: 2 lost League Cup Finals in 1968 and 1969, a lost FA Cup Final in 1972, and finishing 2nd and losing the FA Cup Semifinal in 1973. And then he presided over a tailspin, finishing 17th in 1976.

* Terry Neill managed 8 years, and won just 1 trophy, the 1979 FA Cup. In 1978, '79 and '80, he reached 4 cup finals: The FA Cup all 3 years, and the Cup Winners' Cup in the last. He won just 1 of the 4.

* George Graham, the man the WOBs love to cite for winning trophies? Yes, he won 6 trophies in his 9 years at the helm. But in the year he won 2 of those trophies, 1993, he finished 10th -- behind Tottenham. In his last year, 1995, he finished 12th -- behind Tottenham -- and was fired for reasons I won't get into here, but he did deserve it. Indeed, his last 4 seasons were 4th, 10th, 4th and 12th. And his fans get on Wenger for finishing 4th?

They say Wenger only won trophies because he had Graham's back 4: Lee Dixon, Nigel Winterburn, Tony Adams and Steve Bould. Sometimes they throw in goalie David Seaman and make it "Graham's back 5." (Seaman joined in 1990, so he wasn't there for the 1989 League title, but he was there for Graham's other 5 trophies.) This ignores the fact that Graham never won the Double with them; Wenger won one with all of them, and won a second with Dixon, Adams and Seaman. Indeed, Wenger got more out of Graham's back 5 than Graham did.

Also, these WOBs who claim that Wenger can't find defenders, the way he can with midfielders and forwards? He replaced Seaman with Jens Lehmann, Dixon with Lauren, Winterburn with Ashley Cole, Bould with Martin Keown (another Graham signing) and then Keown with Kolo Toure, and Adams with Sol Campbell. In each case, Wenger found a defender who was, at the very least, roughly of equal talent. And used them to go unbeaten, something Graham never did. (Graham did go through 1990-91 losing just 1 game, but Wenger went through 2003-04 having, as the man said, "lost exactly none!")

"Ah, but Graham won a European trophy, something Wenger's never done!" Yeah, in 1994, Graham won the European Cup Winners' Cup, a trophy considered so far beneath the Champions League, it doesn't even exist anymore. It was the European equivalent of the League Cup.

In essence, under Graham, from 1986 to 1995, Arsenal were one of the top 3 clubs in England; under Wenger, since 1996, Arsenal are one of the 10 biggest clubs in the world. And they got that way by Wenger bringing in players Graham never would have considered, like Patrick Vieira, Marc Overmars, Thierry Henry, Nwankwo Kanu.

What's that you say? Wenger brought in Mikael Silvestre, Marouane Chamakh, Denilson, Gervinho! And got rid of Cesc Fabregas and Robin van Persie too soon! Yes, and Graham brought in John Jensen, Eddie McGoldrick, Stefan Schwarz and Colin Pates, and got rid of Michael Thomas and David Rocastle too soon. Which one did more damage? Put it this way: If Graham hadn't made those transactions -- especially Jensen, the deal that eventually cost him his job for reasons that had nothing to do with competitiveness -- he might still be the Arsenal manager today. (Yes, he'll turn 70 this year, but he's still younger than Alex Ferguson.)

Oh, and, by the way? When Graham's exile was over, and he managed Leeds, and then arch-rival Tottenham, he won just one trophy, and only once won a game against Wenger. Indeed, Wenger has never finished behind Tottenham while managing Arsenal; Graham did, twice.

Maybe it's time they stopped comparing Wenger to Graham, and just accepted that Wenger is not only better than Graham was, but did more.

4th Place as a "Trophy." Wenger gets mocked for saying finishing in the top 4 and qualifying for the CL is "like a trophy." Well, just qualifying for it gets a club £30 million in prize money. Qualifying for the Europa League? Just £2 million. How's he supposed to "spend some fucking money" if he doesn't qualify for the CL? And yet, he does. Every single year since 1998.

And now, the top 5:

5. The Stadium Deal. Look at the other big-spending teams. Man United? They've expanded Old Trafford, from 44,000 seats in 1992 to 75,000 today. Man City? What's now known as the Etihad Stadium was built by the City of Manchester for the Commonwealth Games, and then given to the club for free to replace their old stadium, Maine Road. Chelsea? They want to replace 41,000-seat Stamford Bridge, and can probably afford it, but haven't done so, for reasons that are not entirely within their control. Liverpool? They want to replace 44,000-seat Anfield, but haven't been able to afford it.

Indeed, most of the "new" stadiums in England and Wales were done within a few years after the Taylor Report in 1993, and were done before costs skyrocketed, and at capacities nowhere near the Emirates' 60,000, or the similarly-sized stadiums that Chelsea, Liverpool and Tottenham want to build, making them even cheaper: Besides Man City, these include Bolton Wanderers, Cardiff City, Coventry City, Derby County, Hull City, Leicester City, Middlesbrough, Millwall, Reading, Southampton, Stoke City, Sunderland, Swansea City, Wigan Athletic. Still others, like United, Chelsea and Tottenham, in that period rebuilt their old stadiums one stand at a time, until all four were new. (In Chelsea's case, one stand still remains from 1973; in United's, from 1948.)

Wenger had to make profits in order to pay down the stadium debt. And he still managed to keep the club in the top 4 and the Champions League the whole time. Club officials have said that, now, the money is there to spend.

4. Disloyalty. Think of where Arsenal would be right now if certain players had stayed loyal:

* Ashley Cole? Kieran Gibbs might now be a good backup, ready to take over for Cole next season, or the next.

* Cesc Fabregas and Samir Nasri? Presuming they would have stayed healthy (all too often, one or both didn't while they were here), they'd form a great 4-man midfield with two of these three: Theo Walcott, Jack Wilshere and Aaron Ramsey -- then again, maybe Wenger never would have bought Mesut Ozil, who -- yes, Cesc fanboys -- is better now than Cesc has ever been, and probably better now than Cesc ever will be again.

* Emmanuel Adebayor and Robin van Persie? Again, these are guys who tend to get hurt, but, if healthy, would be a better top two than Olivier Giroud and Lukas Podolski, right? Yeah... if healthy. Big if, especially with RVP.

Which brings us to...

3. Injuries. Late in the 2006 season, Diaby got his leg broken by Dan Smith of Sunderland; he's never been the same player since, constantly being injured, and making ridiculous passing mistakes even when he does play. In February 2008, Eduardo da Silva got his leg broken by Ben Taylor of Birmingham City; Arsenal's title challenge fell apart, and Eduardo missed a year, and was, quite literally, intimidated by it, never really regaining his shooting touch. In February 2010, Aaron Ramsey got his leg broken by Ryan Shawcross of Stoke City; Arsenal still had a shot at the League and the CL, but those runs ended up equally broken, and Ramsey missed a year, although unlike Eduardo he came back more determined than ever, and was the best player in the Premiership in the first half of the 2013-14 season, before getting hurt again. (He should be back next week.)

All three of those leg-breaks were on purpose. Maybe if Smith had been sufficiently punished, the others wouldn't have happened.

But it's not just those injuries. Injuries always seemed to happen to Fabregas and van Persie at inopportune times. Tomas Rosicky got hurt, and missed a year and a half. Jack Wilshere got hurt in a preseason friendly, and missed an entire season. What could Arsenal have done with those guys ready to go?

2. Roman Abramovich. Since buying Chelsea in time for the 2003-04 season, the corrupt Russian energy baron has sought to buy trophies. It's worked: The 2005, '06 and '10 League titles; the 2007, '09, '10 and '12 FA Cups; the 2007 League Cup; the 2012 Champions League; and the 2013 Europa League. Arsenal could, and perhaps should, have won the '07 League Cup and the '09 FA Cup, and might have if Chelsea were still under previous, or similar, ownership.

1. Alex Ferguson. Even if you don't believe Manchester United are a bunch of cheating bastards (and you should, because they are, and have been since well before Sir Whiskey Nose took over), he does get the most out of players who really aren't great. Just since that 2005 FA Cup Final, he's won the 2008 League title that Arsenal probably should have won, knocked Arsenal out of the 2009 Champions League, put a big crimp in early promises in 2009-10, and won the League in 2011 and 2013, before finally retiring.

So there you have it: Plenty of reasons why Arsène Wenger is not the biggest factor in Arsenal's 9-year trophy drought.

*

Do you still want Wenger out? Well, consider where Man United were under Ron Atkinson; then, what they did under Alex Ferguson; now, where they are under David Moyes. The right manager can make a tremendous difference.

To paraphrase Jack Nicholson...

You can't handle the truth! Arsène Wenger's existence, while grotesque and incomprehensible to you, wins games. You don't want the truth, because, deep down, in places you don't talk about at parties, you want him in that seat. You need him in that seat! He uses words like quality, mental strength, new signing. He uses these words as the backbone of a life spent defending something. You use them as a punchline.

He has neither the time nor the inclination to explain himself to a man who rises and sleeps under the blanket of the very trophies and stadium that he has provided, and then questions the manner in which he provided them. I would rather you just said, "Thank you," and went on your way. Otherwise, I suggest you leave The Arsenal, and choose another club.

Either way, I don't give a damn what you think you are entitled to.

*

For those of you still accept Arsène Wenger as Arsenal manager, who understand that he has won trophies, that he has caused the building of the new stadium and the new training complex, that he has changed the way the club has been run, that he has changed the way the game is played, and that there is no one better equipped to manage this team, now and in the next few years, I say...

Thank you, and please join me in continuing to support him, as he manages his 1,000th game as Arsenal manager today, away to Chelsea, in a game that will go a long way toward deciding who wins the 2014 Premier League title. With an FA Cup Semifinal, and possibly a Final, still to come this season.

For all he's been through, fairly and not...

Still...

One Arsène Wenger. There's only one Arsène Wenger.

Merci, Boss.

3 comments:

Musa said...

...horrific score y'day. Are you you sure its still "One Arsene Wenger" ???

Uncle Mike said...

Completely sure. If you think one game erases all he's done, then you're a goddamned fool.

gunnerwhatever yeah said...

Well written and true sentiments. These glory hunters get some bizarre high from a team winning trinkets and its always` WE WON`We really , no the lads won or lost >you give them strength and belief from supporting the club WIN DRAW OR LOOSE end of ! or Uncle mike says ship out to west ham or totempole.
The club owe MR W the utmost respect as a great manager of men and club !